Inquiry Based Instructional Model
To intertwine scientific knowledge and practices and to empower students to learn through exploration, it is essential for scientific inquiry to be embedded in science education. While there are many types of inquiry-based models, one model that I've grown to appreciate and use is called the FERA Learning Cycle, developed by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC):
A framework for implementation can be found here.
I absolutely love how the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology explains that this is "not a locked-step method" but "rather a cyclical process," meaning that some lessons may start off at the focus phase while others may begin at the explore phase.
Finally, an amazing article found at Edudemic.com, How Inquiry-Based Learning Works with STEM, very clearly outlines how inquiry based learning "paves the way for effective learning in science" and supports College and Career Readiness, particularly in the area of STEM career choices.
In this unit, students will begin by exploring the properties of matter. Then, the class will investigate the mass of matter before and after physical and chemical changes by conducting investigations and constructing graphs.
Summary of Lesson
Today, I open the lesson by defining key vocabulary words. Students then explore the properties and the placement of particles within different states of matter by researching two sources (a text and video). At the end of the lesson, students reflect and apply their new understanding of the states of matter by writing a summary.
Next Generation Science Standards
This lesson will support the following NGSS Standard(s):
5-PS1-1. Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen. (lessons 3 & 4)
5-PS1-3. Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties. (lessons 1 & 2)
Scientific & Engineering Practices
For this lesson, students are engaged in Science & Engineering Practice: Science & Engineering Practice 8.
Students obtain, evaluate, and communicate information on the states of matter.
To relate ideas across disciplinary content, during this lesson I focus on the following Crosscutting Concept: Crosscutting Concept 2.
Students explain the cause and effect relationships between the placement of molecules and the state of matter. (For example, the molecules in a solid are highly attracted to one another so they are packed closely together. This is why a solid holds it's shape.)
Disciplinary Core Ideas
In addition, this lesson also aligns with the following Disciplinary Core Ideas:
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. A model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small § to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon and the effects of air on larger particles or objects. (5-PS1-1)
To add depth to student understanding, when I can, I'll often integrate ELA standards with science lessons. Today, students will work on meeting CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.7: Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently. In this lesson, students will be using multiple resources to locate key information involving the properties of different states of matter.
Choosing Science Teams
With science, it is often difficult to find a balance between providing students with as many hands-on experiences as possible, having plenty of science materials, and offering students a collaborative setting to solve problems. Any time groups have four or more students, the opportunities for individual students to speak and take part in the exploration process decreases. With groups of two, I often struggle to find enough science materials to go around. So this year, I chose to place students in teams of two or three! Picking science teams is always easy as I already have students placed in desk groups based upon behavior, abilities, and communication skills. Each desk group has about six kids, so I simply divide this larger group in half or thirds.
Gathering Supplies & Assigning Roles
To encourage a smooth running classroom, I ask students to decide who is a 1, 2, or 3 in their groups of three students (without talking). In no time, each student has a number in the air. I'll then ask the "threes" to get certain supplies, "ones" to grab their computers, and "twos" to hand out papers (or whatever is needed for the lesson). This management strategy has proven to be effective when cleaning up and returning supplies as well!
Matter Unit Lapbooks
To provide students with a method to keep track of their research and thinking during our unit on matter, I followed these steps to create lapbooks for each student.
1. I folded each side of a file folder inward to create a booklet that opens from the center: File Folder.
2. Next, I made copies of Lapbook Templates on colored paper (purple, yellow, green, and orange). I made sure to have enough copies so that each student would have 4 graphs, 6 research notes, 8 investigations, 18 vocabulary words (9 sets of 2 words), and the 4 pictures. I also copied the Other Research Pocket onto blue card stock paper so that students would have a place to put loose papers.
3. Then, I stapled the templates into each lapbook: Inside the Lapbook.
4. Before starting our unit on matter, I asked students to help personalize their lapbooks. Students used a glue stick and tape to secure the blue research pockets on the back (Student Research Pocket Example). Then, they decorated the cover:
Creating these lapbooks helps build excitement and student ownership!
Referring to our States of Matter Poster from yesterday's lesson, States of Matter Part 1, I begin the lesson by explaining: Yesterday, you all did an amazing job observing the properties of solids, liquids, and gases. Today, we are going continue identifying the properties of the different states of matter, but first, it's important to gather some professional definitions for the following vocabulary words: state of matter, solids, liquids, and gases.
As a side note, if I want students to use scientific language within class discussions and student explanations, I have found that incorporating key words and student-friendly definitions is essential.
I ask the class to use their computers and dictionaries look up and share definitions, one word at a time. Then, as a group, we collectively decide on a definition to write in the vocabulary section of student lapbooks. I listen to multiple definitions and then I craft a student-friendly definition by pulling key information from several students' definitions. I'll often reword complex words. Here are a few student examples:
I invite students to take today's notes on solids, liquids, and gases using a new Research Notes page in their lapbooks. Just like yesterday, I show students how to divide one page up into three sections (Dividing Notes) so that they have room to take notes on the properties of solids, liquids, and gases. Now that students have observed the properties of the three basic states of matter, I want to provide them with the opportunity to build a deeper understanding through research.
I email students links to the following video and text for further research within their science teams. I ask one student in each group to get a computer. I find that collaboration amongst students is more likely to happen when they are sharing one device.
Monitoring Student Understanding
Once students begin working, I conference with every group. My goal is to support students by asking guiding questions (listed below). I also want to encourage students to engage in Science & Engineering Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence.
During this conference, Student Conference, I enjoy listening to these two students develop a greater understanding of matter and molecules in their everyday lives.
Now that students have built meaning and understanding by observing, questioning, and researching the states of matter, I want to provide students with the opportunity to use this information to write a paragraph. I find that students gain more from their research when they are asked to summarize their findings.
I pass out a half sheet of lined paper to each student. I provide students with the following topic sentence, The three states of matter are very different. Then students add on by explaining how each state of matter is unique.
Here are a few examples:
This is also the perfect opportunity for students to use their research notes to write a sentence that describes the following picture in their lapbooks (Student Caption Example 1 & Student Caption Example 2).